“Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.
Today’s column is written by Matthew Keylock, SVP, Media Partnerships at dunnhumby.
Within an industry rapidly becoming obsessed with unstructured data, are we losing our focus? Unstructured data, data from customer emails, social media, video, and elsewhere that doesn’t fit into a relational database, has great potential to provide rich and powerful insight. However, in reality, few businesses are in a position to worry about harvesting and activating their unstructured data assets. Many companies are investing significant time and resources to investigate new technologies and the myriad of companies offering unstructured-based insights or targeting solutions. As companies race to solve these challenges, many are skipping an important step.
Before diving into approaches to manage and analyze the volume, variety, velocity and value of unstructured data, businesses need to assess their structured data assets. Data should allow a business to learn more about their customers overtime. Without that foundation and proven success in leveraging structured data, the addition of unstructured data is guaranteed to create more noise rather than clarity. If businesses continue to regulate “The Big Data Challenge” to IT, or think software is the means to a resolution, they will likely continue to face roadblocks to long-term viability and success with that data. They will continue to just chase the next shiny tech object without a view into how to make it accountable to the business
If we look at the landscape, the race to resolve unstructured data shouldn’t come as a surprise for a few reasons.
IT departments chase new technology solutions. The IT department needs to demonstrate that they are ahead of the game and positioned to drive new value for the organization with cutting edge new technologies. It’s not just important to have the latest technology on one’s resume, it’s also about proving leadership and credibility in the organization, the boardroom and to the wider industry at large to sustain a forward-leading reputation.
Marketers in many organizations are still mired in yesterday’s world. Granular execution at the customer-level and the ability to drive more accountability with purchase data is clearly the next phase for marketing but the industry isn’t yet ready for this. Many marketers don’t have the data expertise that is needed and therefore spend most of their focus finding the new great “proxy” for customer needs and attitudes by chasing things like customer sentiment. Proxies can work well for trends and broad-scale activations, but today’s world is personalized. Consumer level data is needed not only for execution but for better strategies and measures. For example, marketing thinking has long cautioned marketers not to run a TV spot at the same time as price discount because prevailing insight showed that they often canceled each other. Thanks to customer-level data, we know now that this isn’t true, that in fact the opposite is true.
Data means nothing without a strategy. It’s not the data that will give you the competitive advantage; it is how you think about that data- unstructured or structured- across your organization and how you use it to drive change. Side-by-side insights from siloed data sources create confusion, inefficiency and ultimately a fragmented consumer experience. The total data asset, from social to analytics and transactions, should provide a deep and consistent view of each individual customer. Very few businesses are doing this today. In fact, by focusing on unstructured data, many are reinforcing, if not proliferating, data silos and inconsistent decisions and customer experience.
For example, in the behavioral continuum image below, marketers largely remain on the left, while finance and IT focus on the right. Their worlds don’t connect. It’s not just the objectives that are different but the metrics and the data sources they are using to drive their decisions. This continuum needs to be connected using granular, customer level behavioral and structured data as the foundation.